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Brothers and Sisters in Christ who are connected to St. Mark’s,

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to God for your compassionate generosity, for your faithful service in the name of Jesus, and for your genuineness of faith.

This is how Paul begins his letters. 1. His name. 2. The name of the church. 3. A greeting of grace and peace. 4. A thanksgiving for that church’s gifts. Then he begins addressing the concerns that have prompted his writing.

Over the next four weeks our worship themes come from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. We will be focusing on love (chapter 13), the resurrection (chapter 15),  and the metaphor of the church being the body of Christ (chapter 12). These are themes I have preached repeatedly. Chapter 13 is a favorite for weddings and chapter 15 is almost always used at funerals. However, when I read chapter one, verses ten through eighteen, assigned for the last weekend in April, the whole purpose of Paul’s letter became clear.

It started when I sat down and read the whole letter in one sitting. I was reading it, not studying it. Not studying about love. Or resurrection. Or speaking in tongues. Or marriage. Or worship practices. Or the centrality of the cross. All these individual topics I have studied at depth over the years. The lightbulb moment came when I got past the opening to chapter one, verse ten, where Paul states his overarching them for the whole letter:

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you but that you be knit together in the same mind and the same purpose. 

The key to understanding the Corinthian church and Paul’s concern for this gathering of Christians that he founded is that they are contentious. After Paul left Corinth, they had several other significant teachers who influenced the Corinthians so much that their identity was found in the various emphases of their teachers and not upon Christ. Paul claims our identity is found in the cross of Christ. All matters—from love to death—are to be understood through the lens of the cross of Christ.

Since we live in such contentious times, both in the church and out, can we find our identity in the cross of Christ? I invite you to read 1 Corinthains to ponder the question.

Peace be with you all,

Pastor Doug

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